In a move that lends weight to Bollywood’s welcome trend toward star-driven movies focused on women’s issues, Sony Pictures Entertainment has partnered with Preema Arora and Arjun Kapoor’s KriArj Entertainment on the Akshay Kumar-starring drama Padman.
Sony has committed to participate in production and to handle worldwide distribution for Padman, which is scheduled to release in theaters in India and around the world on January 26th, 2018.
In the upcoming film, which was written and directed by R. Balki (Cheeni Kum, Paa), Akshay Kumar portrays the real-life social entrepreneur Arunachalam Muruganantham, the inventor who risked everything, including his own reputation, to introduce low-cost and easily accessible sanitary napkins to poor women in India and around the world.
Over the course of many years, Muruganantham dedicated himself to solving a massive challenge of women’s hygiene in developing countries, overcoming India’s taboo of discussing menstruation by using himself as a test subject for his sanitary pads, sacrificing his reputation and his family’s respect in the process. But he ultimately prevailed, inventing a cheap mini-machine that can manufacture sanitary pads for less than a third of the cost of commercial pads, and subsidizing their distribution across all of India. In 2014, TIME magazine placed him on its list of 100 Most Influential People in the World.
As a socially-conscious drama, Padman follows in the footsteps of Aamir Khan’s Dangal—India’s most popular and financially successful movie ever. In that film Khan plays a frustrated wrestler who makes the sacrifices necessary to ensure that his daughters reach their full potential and become world champions in the sport. Khan also produced and acted in this autumn’s Secret Superstar, which has him in a supporting role as a crass, boorish and mildly misogynistic music producer who nevertheless gives his time, his money and even his dignity to help a young girl achieve her dream and, more importantly, to help the girl’s mother liberate herself from a dangerously abusive husband.
Akshay Kumar and his KriArj Entertainment have also had their own previous success with films focused on critical social issues. Their summer, 2017 hit Toilet: Ek Prem Katha (English - Toilet: A Love Story). is a satirical comedy that supports India’s governmental campaigns to improve rural sanitation conditions.
Sanford Panitch, President of Sony’s Columbia Pictures division, said of Kumar, “Akshay is the rarest of artists [who has] found a way with this film to make a wonderfully affecting and heartwarming movie that also can impact social change.”